Jack the adult male Satin Bowerbird
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
Live footage streaming from the Forest Gallery at Melbourne Museum.
This web camera focuses on a section in the Forest Gallery that is frequented by many of the resident animals. If you're lucky, you'll see Jack dance in his bower.
Who's who in the bower?
The easiest to pick out from the flock – his blue plumage gives him away. Jack has been in the Forest Gallery since it opened in 2000. The bowers in the gallery made up of stick and blue objects have all been constructed by him. He uses these bowers to attract females where he does a song and dance to entice her to mate with him. He works on his bowers all year round but he is busiest in spring when the breeding season starts. It takes 7 years for male Satin Bower Birds to mature and moult to a blue plumage – before that they are a mottled olive colour. Jack was already blue when he arrived at the museum so by our calculations he is quite an old bird.
Errol came to the Museum in 2004. He is a young male who is yet to develop the blue plumage like Jack. Instead, like all young bower birds he looks similar to females with a dappled olive colour. He can be picked out from the other youngsters by an orange plastic leg band on his left leg. This band does not hurt him – it is solely there so we can make behavioural observations and tell him apart from the rest of the flock. He spends a lot of time practicing his singing and dancing, he has so far not been observed to have successfully constructed his own bower – instead he borrows Jack’s to practise in. He tends to just carry sticks around and try to stick one end into the ground.
Brittney has been in the Museum since 2004. Since being in the museum she has produced 12 offspring. 4 of her young from last season are still in the gallery waiting to be sent off to new homes. All her offspring from earlier years have already left – many are now on display in other zoos and wildlife parks around Australia. You can recognise Brittney by her red leg band on her right leg. This band does not hurt her – it is solely there so we can make behavioural observations and tell her apart from the rest of the flock. Female bower birds are very secretive during breeding season. Once mated, Brittney will often create a nest high up in the trees at the southern end of the gallery – we will often only know her eggs have hatched by watching her collect food in her beak and carry it to the nest. When she first had young she often only reared one at a time – these days she mainly rears two chicks at a time and for the last couple of years has had two clutches in a season – hence the 4 juveniles we have in the gallery from this season alone.
The other bower birds
We have a number of green bower birds without leg bands. These are Brittney and Jack’s offspring from the last breeding season. They spend the first few months of their life here at the museum before being sent off to other institutions to be put onto display.
Superb Fairy Wrens
A flock of Superb Fairy Wrens can often be observed moving through the forest gallery, picking insects off the forest floor and plants. They move around in family groups – often with a male, female and offspring. From August to March a male with bright blue feathers can be recognised as the dominant male in the pack, over winter he moults his feathers and has brown feathers just like the rest.
Red Browed Finches
Almost like a swarm on some days – our Red Browed Finches move through the gallery in packs. Basking in the sun, having a bath or feeding on the grass seed heads – where you see one you just have to look a little closer to see half a dozen. These finches love being around this bower in the late afternoon as the sun is going down and bathing the area in a warm glow.
Wally the Water Dragon
During the warmer months of the year our lizards come out to bask and feed. Wally is out water dragon who is very active throughout the gallery. She normally likes to hang around near the water where she can jump in and make a hasty escape if she feels threatened. She sometimes ventures to hang out near the bower as it is a great spot to bask in the sun and collect food that is left out by the animal keepers who look after all the live animals in the museum.
There are a number of Cunningham’s Skinks in the Forest Gallery. During winter they find a safe, dry and secure spot to sleep but as the weather warms up they come out to bask and feed. The bower is one of their favourite spots to sit in the afternoon as the sun is shining on it – plus we often put food out here for them as well. They get a mixture of vegetables, mealworms and special pellets that have all the vitamins and minerals they need.